They make motors to drive EV costs down – ET Auto

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Representative image.

The cost is a key hurdle to adoption of electric vehicles (EV) in India. And, 60%-70% of the cost of manufacturing lies in electric motors, controllers and batteries as these are mostly imported. A desire to make EVs more cost-effective and indigenous was what drove three mechatronics engineers from SRM University, Chennai, to create alternatives to imported motors.

Torus Robotics, launched by Vignesh M, Vibhakar Senthil and Abbhi Vignesh K, makes its own proprietary design axial flux motors and controllers. These are more compact and efficient than radial motors and thus find use in EVs.

“In college, as batchmates, we worked together in a team that made an electric single-seater solar car for a college tech event. That’s how our journey in new-age EV solutions started. Our product got validated in various national and global competitions and that pushed us to think of starting a company,” says co-founder Vignesh M. However, being first-time entrepreneurs from middle-class backgrounds, they needed a safety net. The three friends thus pursued an MBA in SRM and simultaneously worked with various industry advisors and academicians to hone their idea.

While initially building up the company as a maker of robots for the defence sector, they soon realised that they needed to pivot to making efficient, lightweight and cost-effective motors for EVs. “While making unmanned electric defence systems, we noticed that out of the eight months we took to complete it, more than five months were spent in importing the right electric motors. That’s when we narrowed our focus,” says Vignesh.

Torus Robotics’ motors are 50% lighter and more compact, up to 15% more efficient, and cost-effective compared to alternatives, says the team. “While conventional induction motor makers and startups are trying to enter the EV powertrain segment, globally, there are very few players who make motors in the sub 25 KW category for electric 2W and 3W,” he says. Torus’s proprietary design, choice of material and cooling technology sets it apart, he adds. The startup is replacing the steel used in the rotor and stator with another proprietary material (unnamed for confidentiality). This is resulting in a 30%-40% reduction in material consumption, says Vignesh. Their product is in pilot stages with potential Indian customers. Once these are validated, they can also serve the global demand coming in from European countries. The motors also have applications in pumps, E-boats, and other industrial purposes. “We are also looking to set up our own assembly facility in the next 8-12 months, and evaluating locations in Chennai, Coimbatore and Hosur,” says Vignesh.

Innovating in a R&D heavy product, the team believes it was grants and investments from initial backers such as SRM Incubation Centre, SINE IIT-Bombay FORGE, Coimbatore, StartupTN, and United Nations that made the difference. The trio’s frugal mindset and decision to undertake small design consulting projects on the side helped shore up revenue.

“It was a big deal for us to get family support for these risks, and so we did not go to them for financial support. In fact, we did not draw any salary from the venture for a long time,” says Vignesh.

During tough times, the founders believe that their long friendship and mutual understanding have helped them win through. “Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Be ready to have a profitability mindset and work toward commercialisation of your product right from day one,” the founders stress.

  • Published On Feb 26, 2024 at 01:10 PM IST

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